When we couldn't
connect to our OPLIN email account last Friday, it made for a quiet day
in the office. Then OPLIN announced that its
email database had gotten corrupted during an upgrade and that they
would no longer provide email to Ohio public libraries. That day,
as we jumped to a new email provider (we chose Fastmail),
was a little louder.
We've talked to
libraries whose staff lost all the email they had received and sent over
years of work (though there
may be hope). They had only used the webmail interface to get to
email. It was all stored on OPLIN's server, and now it's all gone. Data
security is hard. These systems keep getting bigger and more
sophisticated, and so do spammers and other trouble-makers. To keep
services like email up and running, all your staff need to be involved.
Make this into an opportunity to improve the way everyone operates.
Create stronger passwords
Help people create
better passwords by learning about diceware.
The diceware website has a long list of words and five-digit numbers.
Roll five dice, and look up the matching word. Roll five or six words
this way and you have a strong password that's memorable because
it's strange. Explain this at your next staff meeting, or create a
password station for staff, and help them through the steps.
Remember those stronger passwords
Give your memory a
break by using a password keeper like 1Password
These store your passwords and are protected by a strong password that
Use a desktop email program sometimes
When you use a
desktop program like Postbox
(which is free) and connect with IMAP,
not POP3. When you use IMAP, it syncs the online emails to your
local computer. If you read emails or move them into folder, those
changes are also synced. So whether you connect through webmail,
Thunderbird or your smartphone, your changes are always up to date.
If you opened
Thunderbird once a week—even if you didn't use it to read or send
emails—it would sync your emails. If your email provider disappeared in a
puff, you would still have that local copy. At SWON, we use Postbox,
and that kept us from losing all our emails.
For added safety, export
emails from Thunderbird and save them to external hard drives.
Yes, it's a lot of work
Time is money, some
of the software mentioned above costs money, and email addresses have
their own costs. But losing your data is costly too, in ways that can be
hard to calculate. A lost email account can cut off access to other
accounts (especially if you need to reset your password), and email
address changes are frustrating for staff and customers.
We're glad to help.
Invite Nathan to your library and he can lead a hands-on session on
passwords and Diceware, and introduce Thunderbird and email management,
for staff or patrons. He'll gladly field questions too. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
or call him at (513) 751-4422x11.
Swartzendruber, SWON Technology Educator